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TrendForce Sees 2015 PV Demand Stays at 51.4GW; Utilization Rates to Rise in Second Half for Wafers and Modules

28 April 2015 Energy Jason Huang

The slow recovery of the global PV market continues into the second quarter. Jason Huang, research manager for EnergyTrend, a division of TrendForce, said the market on the whole is showing positive signs even though prices along the supply chain were falling at the end of the first quarter. Demands for system installation was not substantial during that period, resulting in the general price decline. However, the outlook for the second half of this year is upbeat with China driving the market, and America and emerging markets will start to pick up as well. Based on EnergyTrend’s estimation, the global PV market demand for 2015 will remain around 51.4GW. 

Polysilicon prices have been sliding since the end of the first quarter, back to the level of US$16/kg. Huang noted that polysilicon oversupply is more acute this year, and the Chinese government is still mulling over tariff duties against foreign imports. Moreover, new capacities from multiple suppliers will be added to this year’s polysilicon production. Wacker and OCI, for instance, will be respectively contributing 20,000 and 10,000 tons per year. Hanwha, TBEA, and Daqo New Energy will also each be adding around 3,000~6,000 tons per year. China may see changes in policy, causing polysilicon prices to rise at home while falling overseas. However, EnergyTrend’s latest analysis indicates this price divergence between China and the rest of the world will not occur in the second period as initially expected. Instead, this event will be delayed to the start of the fourth quarter. 

As for the wafer market, the end of the first quarter saw a noticeable decline in shipments due to flat demands and effects of the Chinese New Year holidays. However, the condition has gotten better since the start of the second quarter, and Chinese manufacturers are currently maintaining high capacity utilization rates. EnergyTrend predicts wafer shipments will increase significantly as the market enters the second half of 2015, but wafer prices will nonetheless be linked to polysilicon prices. The prices of mono-Si wafers are expected to decline and will again drive demands for mono-Si modules in the downstream market. 

In the PV cell market, many manufacturers are presently engaged in the adoption of the passivated emitter rear cell (PERC) technology. Taiwanese cell manufacturers so far have been the most active increasing the capacities for PERC cells. Their Chinese counterparts, such as CSI, Jinko, Trina, and JA Solar, are also following suit. The main non-Chinese manufacturers that are raising PERC capacities are Solarworld and Hanwha Q CELLS. Huang noted more than 1.5GW will be added to the existing PERC capacities worldwide before the start of this year’s third quarter. “The prospects of manufacturers will start to differentiate based on their choices of applying PERC to either mono-Si or multi-Si cell,” Huang added. Currently, modules assembled with multi-Si PERC cells can generate enough power to meet the output demands in the downstream market, whereas light-induced degradation is still an issue in the development of mono-Si PERC products. Consequently, mono-Si PERC cells are likely to face a new round of price competition if there is steady advances in the multi-Si PERC category. 

Module outweighs both wafer and cell in the capacity expansion plans of many vertically integrated PV companies for 2015. Numerous China-based companies at the same time are setting up capacities abroad in anticipation of fallouts from the trade war between China and the U.S. Therefore, the worldwide expansion of module makers will be a long-term trends in the industry’s development. Huang asserted first-tier Chinese module manufacturers will see further growths in their shipments this year. “China’s internal demand will reach the installation target of 17.8GW,” said Huang. “, so it will be main driver for module shipments.” Huang also pointed out shipments to Japan, the U.S., and other emerging markets all come from these major companies. Some manufacturers posted shipment declines in the first quarter due to seasonality, but most will again cross the 1GW mark starting from this quarter. Demands from China is anticipated to be in full force sometimes after May-June. The first half of this year shipments will account for about 47% of the total shipments in 2015. It is expected the shipments in the second half will be greater than the first half. 

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